Monday, June 28th, 2010

The Flight of the Halcyon: Or, I Had a Baby

I didn’t think I’d do a blog post this soon after the baby came. But I forgot that part of being a dad is finding ways to amuse yourself while your newborn sleeps off her milk coma and your wife sleeps off her regular coma-coma.

Fortunately solitary amusement is a core piece of the nerd skillset.

Halcyon Harriet Graham Grossman was born on Sunday morning, June 27, at dawn. She came in a big hurry — Sophie’s water broke at home, and the baby came about four hours later — which meant that I got to do the thing that all expectant fathers dream of, which is drive really fast through New York City in the middle of the night with my laboring wife in the back seat yelling at me to go faster.

My years of “wasted” time playing Midnight Club and Burnout paid off bigtime.

Though it turns out drifting round corners doesn’t give you a power boost in real life. And when I successfully completed the course my seven-year-old VW Passat station wagon was not upgraded to a fancy new car.

I did get a fancy new baby though.

I never thought I’d be a father. It’s not literally true to say that I come from a long line of childless couples, but it’s kind of my medical care choice Health Canada Pharmacy like that. Breeding has never been a big priority in my family. I would almost go so far as to say that it is frowned upon. My immediate brother and sister don’t have kids. (Though my two half-brothers do.) We’re more of a reading/writing/learning/working family.

The definitive family story about this is how my grandfather (the St. Paul Chevrolet dealer), when he was in the middle stages of what was probably Alzheimer’s, used to clap my dad (his son) on the shoulder and say, “You medicament co azithromycin know what I’m proud of, Al? I’ll tell ya: Never had kids.”

Growing up, there just didn’t seem to be a good model for being a father. Samuel Johnson was considered an acceptable model. Beethoven was a model. James Bond (my personal choice) was a model. All admirable men in many respects. Not big on fatherhood though. Beethoven was celibate. And if Bond ever fell in love with anybody they immediately died before anything so uncool as procreation could occur.

I’d even go further and say that even outside of our family, fatherhood isn’t extravagantly celebrated in our culture in general. There’s no clear path to cool fatherhood. Fathers are shlubby suburbanites who are either pussy-whipped for changing diapers or dicks for not changing diapers. They are most often seen taking out the trash in sitcoms. They are almost never seen walking away from buildings in slow motion as the buildings explode behind them.

[Probably it’s just as bad for mothers. Maybe this is a problem with parenthood in general.]

Not that I’m looking for extravagant celebration. But a basic blueprint/flow chart for cool fatherhood would be useful.

I feel like I’m finding my way into it. Albeit slowly and incompetently. Mostly I learned how to be a father from my first daughter, who had to teach me how to do it. Which is a lot to ask from a little girl, but fortunately she is tough as nails.

I’ll get those therapy bills later, baby. That’s all on daddy.

p.s. Halcyon: HAL-see-on. It’s a kind of kingfisher. There’s a Greek myth about the origin of the halcyon, which is kind of tragic, but the upshot is that they thought that the halcyon made its nest on the open ocean, and that it had the power to calm stormy seas. I think that’s a pretty cool superpower.

42 comments on “The Flight of the Halcyon: Or, I Had a Baby

  1. drazin says:

    how the hell did you talk your wife into letting you name her that? 😉

  2. Leverus says:

    @drazin It was her idea. Yes: I am a lucky man.

  3. Rita says:

    Congratulations! She is adorable. Enjoy these first days, it goes by so quickly. I love the name.

  4. Jordana says:

    Been listening to this in your honor:



  5. gminnj says:


  6. Leverus says:

    @Jordana TOTALLY forgot about that song. man that takes me back.

  7. Eoin says:

    Congrats – & loved the book too, btw –

    On cool fathers:
    The pickings aren’t great, it’s true. As a father of nine years standing, I’m inclined to agree with Chabon:

    “The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low”

    So, blessing and curse, then. But I think, for writers anyway, we’re pretty well served. Off the top of my head, there’s Chabon himself, Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell and Shakespeare (depending on how we interpret the life of young Hamnet, of course) – not bad company.

    But I think maybe we hear so little about it is because being a good dad is quiet, it’s under the radar. It’s mining in darkness while other guys snowboard down the slopes. To get away from the dwarf image, being a father is to the flashy childless guy as Clint Eastwood is to Channing Tatum.

    I’m going to run with that. Don’t burst my bubble.

  8. amybillingham says:

    oops, your “myth” hyperlink actually goes to a page about Alcyon bicycles.

    this is the one about the myth of Alcyone:

    …which apparently makes you god of the wind:
    “her father Aeolus, god of the winds, restrained the winds and calmed the waves”

    : )

  9. amybillingham says:

    also, i think the name Halcyon Harriet Graham Grossman is beautiful and has a lovely rhythm. it sounds rather like the name of a character in a book.
    (and HHGG herself is lovely, too!)

  10. Leverus says:

    BOTHER. fixed.

    I hadn’t thought about that, about Aeolus. Retcon! I am a god.

  11. Leverus says:

    (BTW Harriet is Sophie’s sister’s name. And Graham is a family name on her side — it’s Sophie’s middle name.

    And Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, but Alcyone figures in the introduction to Chaucer’s BOOK OF THE DUCHESS, which I love. Codex is partly based on it.

    And I don’t think the significance of the initials HHGG will be lost on many readers of this blog: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=hhgg )

  12. Bruno says:

    Congrats. She looks just like you, heheh

  13. amybillingham says:

    wow, that is a lot of name significance for one little baby.
    fancy, indeed!

  14. Daniel says:

    Congratulations, Lev! I,too, enjoyed Magicians. Thanks for that.

  15. Congratulations on becoming a father. It’s a whole different and quite amazing life in front of you now. Perhaps she will end up answering to Halley? We named our first Tristan and after two decades of insisting on TJ he has finally embraced his name.

    I actually searched out your blog to tell you how much I am enjoying The Magicians. Just eighty pages (or thereabouts) to go and I have already got that feeling that I am going to hate to have it end. You’ve given us a wonderful character in Quentin.

    Very much looking forward to the next book.

  16. Gina Nelson says:

    I am one of your ( now many) twitter friends, before you were REALLY famous : ) , i.e. before you had a baby.

    Mazal tov. I am an ob doc and a mother of three and don’t let any one fool you. The first few weeks are pretty ardous, albeit wondrous. Be sure to take good care of your wife, do as much as you can with the baby, rest and eat. That’s pretty much it. How lovely for you that all of these great things are happening.

  17. Gina Nelson says:

    P. S.
    The name Halcyon is suoerb. We went out on some limbs with our childrens’ names with Echo, Forest and Vale and have never regretted it. They are grown now at 16, 20, and 26, and each love their unusual names.

  18. Alison says:

    Grossman: Just FYI. There appears to be a baby on your blog.

    My son’s dad was a pretty cool father until my son turned about sixteen. Then it was all over frankly.

    If you wanted to be a cool dad you could become an astronaut. Or Iron Man.

    It’s not too late you know.

  19. Leverus says:

    that’s what I keep telling people. but stark won’t even TAKE my calls anymore.

  20. Becca says:

    you’ve picked such a cool name for your kid, I’m sure you’ll be a cool dad if you just keep at it 😉

  21. qbertina says:

    congratulations! it’s a lovely name.

  22. Kemper says:


  23. Heather says:

    Lev – congratulations! She’s gorgeous, as is her name. I’m sure she’s the light of your life. 🙂

    It was wonderful meeting and talking with you in Seattle – you should visit again soon (when your life allows).


  24. Meg says:

    In a few years halcyon is going to titter at you and remind you that “cool dad” is an oxymoron. Unless she already has 🙂

  25. […] is me in Rome last spring, for a last hurrah before this happened. It’s just a snapshot. I’m standing on a bridge over the Tiber. The light is nice […]

  26. […] The Flight of the Halcyon Parental warnings: cuteness […]

  27. Dark knight says:

    Wow, I love that luaka bop heart container thing. Pretty cool!

  28. […] with fear and suspicion in my family. I now have three children– there’s also Lily, 8, and Halcyon, 2 — which makes me something of an outlier among Grossmen. Neither my sister (older) nor my […]

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